Tuesday, January 16, 2018

One Hundred and Sixty One

Fourteen years ago, when Bush ran for re-election, everyone else in the company said they were going to vote for him. Why, I asked, after they’d complained about him throughout his first term, would they vote for him again? They told me that, despite his faults, Bush was a Republican; and they would never vote for a Democrat.

Their believed their low opinion of Democrats was justified when, four years later, they nominated Obama. Mark was the most vocal, yelling angrily that Obama  was a socialist who would take money away from middle-class people “like us” and give it to “those tool-and-die guys”, apparently forgetting that he had been a “tool-and-die guy” himself only a few years earlier.      

They all assumed I was going to vote for Obama. Bob gently teased me for my naïveté in believing he would keep his campaign promises, while Eric and Lorna each took me aside and told me earnestly that Obama was not “the long-awaited Messiah”. I agreed that Obama was no more likely than any other politician to keep his campaign promises, without telling them that I wouldn’t be voting for him because he wasn’t a liberal, as he pretended, much less a socialist, as they imagined.

Three months ago, when I returned to the company, I wondered whether anyone there had learned anything in the interim. I gently teased Bob for voting for Trump, just as he had teased me for voting for Obama, expecting him to deny having voted for him. To my surprise he said he was “still cautiously optimistic” about Trump. I’m sure Bob knows Trump is a disaster. He’s too intelligent to be the ‘true believer’ he pretends to be.

Mark surprised me by telling me that party labels are meaningless. He said Bush, Obama, and now Trump, are all war criminals who should be strung up from the nearest lamppost. He and I speak more often now, and more honestly, than we did eight years ago.      

Even Nick said he’s never taken any interest in politics until now, but Trump scares him.

Today I was sitting at my desk, aware that Nick was babbling again, but paying no attention until I heard the words “Pavlov’s dog”. I then turned my head and saw everyone else was looking at me.

“You got his attention”, said Amanda. “I bet you know about Pavlov’s dog, don't you?".

“Of course,” I said. “I’m Russian.”

“I was just telling them I was out with my buddies last night, and I made a joke about Pavlov’s dog, and none of them knew what I was talking about”, Nick said to me. “Can you believe it?”

I could believe it, because everything Nick has said about his buddies suggests they’re mindless fools. But I was surprised that Nick knew about Pavlov’s dog – or rather admitted to knowing about it, because he’s been careful to give the impression that he is himself a mindless fool who knows and cares about nothing except video games and action heroes. But I’ve always found his puer æturnus act even less convincing than Bob’s ‘true believer’.

While I wondered why he’d stepped out of character, Nick continued talking. I don’t know how he managed the segue, but for some reason he was now talking about Schrödinger. 

Pavlov’s dog got into the box and had a fight with Schrödinger’s cat,” I said. “That’s why the cat was dead when the box was opened.”

“That’s not a joke,” Nick said, frowning at me. “I told them a joke, but that’s not a joke.”

I went back to work.

Friday, January 12, 2018

One Hundred and Sixty

I was in the supermarket today, heading for the broccoli bin, when a woman stepped in front of me.

She stood there, looking into the bin with a bewildered expression. Partly to be helpful, and partly to get her out of my way, I pointed to the two prices posted above the bin and said “$1.49 a pound, and $1.99 for organic”. She smiled at me, and I knew from her smile that she wasn’t just ignorant, but what people call retarded.

When told the oracle at Delphi called him the wisest man in Athens, Socrates replied the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing. We all know so little, compared to what we don’t know, that it might as well be nothing.

Most people fear their ignorance makes them easy prey for charlatans, so they pretend - to themselves and to others - that while they don’t everything, they know everything worth knowing. People labeled retarded differ not in being more ignorant than most, but in being less fearful and suspicious. They imagine other people really do know what they pretend to know.       

It seems to me that more and more people are being labeled retarded. Not because the average level of intelligence is falling, but because there’s so much more now that people need to know, and the schools aren’t teaching it. Our rulers want subjects who are educated well enough to carry out their orders efficiently, but not well enough to think for themselves. That means people know enough to know they’re misgoverned, but not enough to govern themselves.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

One Hundred and Fifty Nine

I'm still alive because I don't take life seriously. Just as the only people who take god seriously are atheists, so the only people who take life seriously are suicides.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

One Hundred and Fifty Eight

Lately I’ve been waking up during the night, often two or three times

When I wake up, I look at the clock, wondering why the alarm didn’t go off, because I feel as though I’ve slept all night. But often I've slept only a couple of hours.

I don’t feel sleepy. I feel tired. Even though I’ve slept only a couple of hours, I feel as though I’ve slept all night because my dream left me exhausted.

I used to remember my dreams in detail. And they were detailed. They were interesting, informative spectacles. I was always a spectator, observing them, aware they were dreams. I learned about myself from watching them. Now I remember nothing of my dreams after I wake. I wouldn’t know I’d been dreaming if I didn’t have the feeling that something momentous had been happening, and then suddenly it stopped. A great cacophony, like the noise of a violent battle, suddenly stopped and there was only the silence of my bedroom.

It's as though I'd been in a forest, and heard the sound of a distant battle. It grew louder and louder as I moved towards it until, finally, I climbed a hill and saw the soldiers below me, fighting; and they, seeing me, stopped fighting and looked up at me. Did they think I was their general?

It's as though I'd been in an insane asylum, and heard its inmates wailing. The sound grew louder and louder as I moved towards it until, finally, I opened a door and saw them; and they, seeing me, stopped wailing and looked at me. Did they think I was their doctor?

It's as though I’d entered hell.

I am in hell. We all are. I used to think I could help them. They thought so, too. But I can help no one.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

One Hundred and Fifty Seven

Google commemorated Marlene Dietrich’s birthday today with a Google Doodle of her dressed in white tie and tails. Her ‘legacy’, claimed one of the accompanying comments, was her “willingness to challenge gender norms”. Another comment described her as bisexual, which is less obtuse than those who call her a lesbian, but still wrong. 

Dietrich wasn’t attracted to men or women. She was an actress, therefore a narcissist. She created an androgynous persona to attract an audience composed of both men and women because she knew they both felt trapped in their conventional gender roles and wanted to see them challenged. Like Narcissus, she was attracted to an image of herself that she created and saw reflected in the eyes of her audience, male and female.

She was an actress who enjoyed the company of men like John Wayne and Ernest Hemingway, who performed their sexual personæ as theatrically as she did hers. 

One comment in support of the view that she was lesbian quoted her as saying “Sex is much better with a woman, but then one can’t live with a woman”; but what she meant by it isn't as obvious to me as it is to others. Was she speaking as a woman, or as the androgynous persona she created? Either one might find sex with a woman better than sex with a man, because ours is a patriarchal society in which women must learn to please men, but men aren’t expected to know what pleases women. 

A woman might also find sex with another woman better than sex with a man for the same reason that a man might find sex with another man better than sex with a woman. It’s forbidden, which makes it attractive. It’s forbidden because it’s attractive.  

Most men don’t really like women, and most women don’t really like men, because most people are conformists. Even conformists find other conformists boring and unattractive. 

Most people are such conformists that the only nonconformity they can imagine is sexual, which is why they’re obsessed with sex. Bertrand Russell supposedly encouraged his students to have sex so they weren't thinking about it constantly, and could give their undivided attention to mathematics. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

One Hundred and Fifty Six

I’m sad when they’re happy, because I know it won’t last and they don't seem to.

They say they believe they will live forever. That would be terrible if it were true; but they say all the wrongs we suffer in this life will be made right in the next, and all the wrongs we do to others in this life will be forgiven in the next. I’m sure they want to believe it, but I don’t see how they can.

I think I can live with the truth. At least I try. But they don’t think they can. That makes me sad.     

Monday, December 25, 2017

One Hundred and Fifty Five

I woke this morning with the words of Major Amberson echoing in my head. They were actually the Major’s words as spoken by Orson Welles in his film of The Magnificent Ambersons, which so impressed me when I was a child that I read the novel on which it was based.

As he nears the end of his life, the Major becomes uncharacteristically philosophical. He asks himself what happens to us when we die, and reasons that our souls return from whence they came. The sun is the source of all life on earth, therefore our souls return to the sun.

I knew Tarkington’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize, but I found it inferior to the film. The Major’s words sounded magnificent when spoken by Welles, but looked banal on the page. This was perhaps the first time I became aware that a second-rate novel can inspire a great film.   

Now I am nearing the end of my life, and my thoughts seem to me as banal as the Major’s.

It’s obvious why the sun was our first god. He rules the sky, and fertilizes mother earth with rain. But before the gods there were goddesses. And the void.

Egyptologists are puzzled by the fact that Nut was goddess of the sky and Geb, her brother/husband, god of the earth. But Nut was goddess of the night sky. The black void overhead was her body, and the stars that filled it were the souls of the dead. Osiris climbed up a ladder to re-enter his mother’s body and become king of the dead.

The Book of Nut is the earliest known text on astrology and astronomy. What we separate into religion and science are both the study of the night sky – that night from whence we all woke and to which we all return.